Todd Graham's seemingly eternal optimism remains unblinking, even in the midst of Arizona State's four-game losing streak, something that...

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Todd Graham’s seemingly eternal optimism remains unblinking, even in the midst of Arizona State’s four-game losing streak, something that became an annual tradition under former Sun Devils coach Dennis Erickson.

But here’s where those slides differ: Erickson’s teams started each year with reasonably high expectations before ultimately falling apart down the stretch.

And while Graham certainly holds the Sun Devils to a higher standard than simply finishing 6-6 and making a bowl game — even in his first season as coach — he didn’t bother diminishing the value of a possible win over Washington State on Saturday.

“It’s always going to be about championships,” Graham said. “(But) going and winning this game and getting bowl eligible is paramount right now.”

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It’s something he admits he talks about with his team. This week isn’t just about beating the Cougars. It’s about getting a sixth win and assuring bowl eligibility for the second consecutive season.

This one might feel a little different from the last, which resulted in a 6-6 regular-season finish and a loss to Boise State in the Las Vegas Bowl. ASU ended the year on a five-game losing streak that ultimately cost Erickson his job.

Not since 2010 have the Sun Devils won a November game. But their four consecutive losses this season — to No. 1 Oregon, No. 17 UCLA, No. 15 Oregon State and No. 21 USC — have come against considerably better competition.

“I think their level of competition changed a little bit,” WSU coach Mike Leach said. “I think part of it, they played better people.

“I don’t know how deep they are so I think they’re probably getting thin like a lot of teams are this time of year, but I think they’re still explosive and I think they’re a very good team.”

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